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Products That Overwhelmed You

Impossible Landscapes is a book I revently grabbed. It’s a Delta Green campaign and it’s about the King in Yellow/Carcosa, and I love that stuff, so I picked it up to see if it’d be fun to run in one system or another.

For some reason, I can’t get into it. There’s just so...much...backstory....with so many NPCs who the PCs won’t even meet.

I may revisit it at some point, but it was too much and my head kept bouncing off of it.
 

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The entire White Wolf product line. Invariably, when I peruse any given book from any given product line (Mage, Vampire, Werewolf, Scion), I read the first 2 or 3 pages and my eyes glaze over.

White Wolf has seemingly perfected the anti-innerdude formula. Not even GURPS made me bounce that hard off of it.
 

DrunkonDuty

Adventurer
For some reason, Hero System is something I struggled with.

I don't know why. It does a lot of similar things to how GURPS (a game which seems very intuitive to me) works, but something about how the books I tried to pick up explained things didn't click for me. Offhand, I do not know which edition of the game it was that I was trying to play at the time. It was whatever would have been available at the local game store around the middle of D&D 4E's life cycle.

I think HERO system's biggest problem is their presentation. They really keep kicking own goals when it comes to putting out new products. Instead of putting good art and pre-building things up front where they can catch the eye and the imagination they front load the books (literally) with indecipherable HERO jargon. It's no wonder the game attracts so few new players. As someone who would love to have more people to play HERO with, that bugs me.
 

amethal

Adventurer
Dungeon Crawl Classics #51 Castle Whiterock.
I got this 700+ page, color-coded multi-book boxed monstrosity ages ago at GenCon dirt cheap in an auction lot.
I've browsed through it a bit a few times but never even tried to run it. I just don't feel like reading 700+ pages of stuff...
With Castle Whiterock you could, if you wanted, just run the "Red Book" - levels 1 to 6A - and ignore almost all of the rest. Any references to things on lower levels could just be viewed as referring to "somewhere in the Underdark, outside the scope of this adventure".

However, it's the "almost" that gets complicated.

Keeping this vague (to avoid spoilers) but to run level 1 you will also need to know about a specific shop (location C-16 in chapter 2 of the Gazetteer), the descriptions of the second (and ideally also the first) of the patrons of the Slumbering Drake Inn whose names begin with "A" (Appendix 1 of the Black Book), a new alchemical item (Appendix 4) and a new feat (Appendix 2).

It's also very helpful to look at Player Handout E before running it (in the Handouts) and locate on it where area 1-1 must be. (But I don't think it does a very good job of depicting where area 1-14 is.)

(It doesn't help that the level 1 map is missing a couple of doors and the location of area 1-7, and the introduction says that area 1-1 doesn't have a roof but the description that area doesn't make any sense unless it does have one.)
 

ccs

41st lv DM
With Castle Whiterock you could, if you wanted, just run the "Red Book" - levels 1 to 6A - and ignore almost all of the rest. Any references to things on lower levels could just be viewed as referring to "somewhere in the Underdark, outside the scope of this adventure".

However, it's the "almost" that gets complicated.

Keeping this vague (to avoid spoilers) but to run level 1 you will also need to know about a specific shop (location C-16 in chapter 2 of the Gazetteer), the descriptions of the second (and ideally also the first) of the patrons of the Slumbering Drake Inn whose names begin with "A" (Appendix 1 of the Black Book), a new alchemical item (Appendix 4) and a new feat (Appendix 2).

It's also very helpful to look at Player Handout E before running it (in the Handouts) and locate on it where area 1-1 must be. (But I don't think it does a very good job of depicting where area 1-14 is.)

(It doesn't help that the level 1 map is missing a couple of doors and the location of area 1-7, and the introduction says that area 1-1 doesn't have a roof but the description that area doesn't make any sense unless it does have one.)

I seriously doubt that I'll ever run this thing (I didn't even intentionally buy it - it's left over chaff from an auction lot I bid on for something else).
Like I said, I look at it & just have no motivation to read beyond a few pages....
But thanks for the tip.
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
I played Dangerous Journeys for about 3 years straight. I knew the rules so well that I started homebrewing stuff, like the grappling tables, to make them a bit more interesting and balanced. I'm not sure how I learned the rules - I'm fairly certain I learned through a friend and then just gradually read up on the bits I was interested in when making a character. I was in university and had more time on my hands.

Fast Forward 20-some years.

My son found the books and begged me to run a game for him. He made a Necromancer. I tried to read through the rules to help him. His 5 page character was finished and I needed to run an adventure for him. I couldn't remember all the intricacies of the rules and I just couldn't find the energy to read through the book, much less make NPCs to challenge my son's character. His adventure never happened.
Those books were very cool. For me, I wish there was a D&D game where magic was more like that. But ya, there were A LOT of rules. This, Ptolus and Mage Knight (bought it over the holidays, still in shrink wrap, so does it really count?).
 


Those books were very cool. For me, I wish there was a D&D game where magic was more like that. But ya, there were A LOT of rules. This, Ptolus and Mage Knight (bought it over the holidays, still in shrink wrap, so does it really count?).
The spell system was so amazing. So much variety.
 



Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I think HERO system's biggest problem is their presentation. They really keep kicking own goals when it comes to putting out new products. Instead of putting good art and pre-building things up front where they can catch the eye and the imagination they front load the books (literally) with indecipherable HERO jargon. It's no wonder the game attracts so few new players. As someone who would love to have more people to play HERO with, that bugs me.
I agree with the art needing to be upgraded, but with their largely B&W format for interior art, I can see why they didn’t spend much there. Better, more colorful art might have inspired people a bit more.

The jargon...I didn’t find all that difficult, to be honest. At least they didn’t use the same words in several different ways. (D&D’s use of “Level” springs immediately to mind.)

The math, though largely simple, did have a couple of more difficult things they included for sake of accuracy. There was one martial arts maneuver (Martial Throw?) that asked for a square root of the opponent velocity as part of its resolution, as I recall. This was in order to calculate how well you had used your opponent’s aggression against them.
 

Honestly, 5e overwhelmed me & still does. I was just smart enough to learn how to play 3e. Then I skipped 4e.
Yet I picked up 5e. Because I wanted to learn how to play, so that I could write DMs Guild stuff for my favorite settings.
And me and a buddy did play. And we did learn it. We played quite a lot. We had a good deal of fun.
But also tremendous frustrations. After a year of weekly play, taking turns as DM, it still overwhelmed me.
We'd argue about the rules. My head would spin at all the details.

And so we started testing various simpler systems (BX, Whitebox, Heroes & Monsters)
Also fun, but some counter-intuitive wonky bits.
After a failed, frustrating time with trying to run Palace of the Silver Princess with BX rules, I'd had enough.

So I designed my own D&D, which was basically a freeform LARP, played outside.

Me and a couple buddies would play through entire modules in freeform LARP style, such as the Keep on the Borderlands, Elwyn's Sanctuary, and Palace of the Silver Princess.
It was storytelling with essentially no mechanics. Except I'd have the player draw a card as an approximate guide to say how well they did in that round. (No one could die.) If I wanted to get on with it, I'd just have them draw one card for the whole scene. And then we'd co-describe how it went. While acting it out.
We immersed ourselves in these these classic stories, while skipping the rules. I love the D&D Multiverse and classic adventures. Yet I don't need to get a headache and stress out about mastering the rules. I'm just not that smart.

It was a lot of fun. And a huge relief.

From that experience, I'm publishing a very simple RPG, called Twelvefold Adventure System. I have placeholder page at DriveThruRPG, but it's not quite online yet.

I'm continually amazed when I see all sorts of people, from all walks of life, playing 5E online. I'm like: "Wow, people are so smart!"

I still haven't written anything for DMs Guild yet, so my mission failed in that regard.

I love reading stuff like this (the honesty, the humility, the sincerity, but also the insight into your own play priorities and how you managed to (a) identify them through trial-and-error and (b) put them into action through systemization/procedures - removing things is just as much systemization as is adding things...probably more to be honest).

Great post. Thanks for sharing.
 

DrunkonDuty

Adventurer
I agree with the art needing to be upgraded, but with their largely B&W format for interior art, I can see why they didn’t spend much there. Better, more colorful art might have inspired people a bit more.

The jargon...I didn’t find all that difficult, to be honest. At least they didn’t use the same words in several different ways. (D&D’s use of “Level” springs immediately to mind.)

The math, though largely simple, did have a couple of more difficult things they included for sake of accuracy. There was one martial arts maneuver (Martial Throw?) that asked for a square root of the opponent velocity as part of its resolution, as I recall. This was in order to calculate how well you had used your opponent’s aggression against them.

When I say jargon I also mean all the rules for building powers. Many (most?) players would rather just pick "fire powers" and be done with it. But HERO supplements put all the building rules up front. It's very intimidating for a new player. I know that stuff was intimidating for me back in the olden days when I was introduced to the game (4th ed. Champions.) But I had the benefit of a couple of fans who helped me through it.

Even when you get examples of powers (and characters and monsters) they have all the build notation included in the write ups. This leads to very busy and confusing sheets. With a bit of experience it becomes easy enough to ignore that stuff. But one has to build up the experience to do that. It's easy enough to do write ups that ignore all but the pertinent information, making for less confusing write ups and thereby reducing the barrier to entry. But you try telling HERO Games that.

I don't recall a manouevre that requires finding the square root of anything. But I'll pull out my copy of Ninja Hero and have a look! I mean, I don't need an excuse to go through old HERO supplements, but's it's nice to have one.

Ah yes, DnD and "Levels." I recall there is a very old OOTS comic on this very subject. <rummage, rummage> AH! here it is.


(Wow, it's strip #12. Well old.)
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I went poking myself: I was mistaken. My faulty memory was interpreting as a square root symbol several formulas for movement-based martial arts maneuvers that included “v/N” type elements, where v was velocity and N was a number that depended on the maneuver in question.

But remember, velocity had to be calculated because it was broken into two elements: movement per phase and phases per turn. A character that can act every phase (a high SPEED stat) might be slower than one that only acts a few phases per turn if their movement per phase are low and high, respectively.
 
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Aldarc

Legend
Invisible Sun RPG. It's not just the sheer amount of materials that are a part of the game, but also the needlessly verbose and stylistic writing.
 

DrunkonDuty

Adventurer
I went poking myself: I was mistaken. My faulty memory was interpreting as a square root symbol several formulas for movement-based martial arts maneuvers that included “v/N” type elements, where v was velocity and N was a number that depended on the maneuver in question.

But remember, velocity had to be calculated because it was broken into two elements: movement per phase and phases per turn. A character that can act every phase (a high SPEED stat) might be slower than one that only acts a few phases per turn if their movement per phase are low and high, respectively.

Ah yes, the good old Velocity/3 or 5 or 10. Oy vay. :rolleyes: I always avoided speedsters because of this.

Warning: tangent into musings on obscure rules from obscure game system.

I always assumed it was the V of only the most recent phase. It's not like it's really possible to keep track of a character's Delta V over a whole battle. And given that HERO is specifically meant to be "superhero physics" I'm not sure Delta V even exists. After all, all those speedsters can go from 0 Mach 5 in under a second, make hairpin turns without slowing down, then stop on a dime.
 

Sithlord

Adventurer
I wish the god I could learn mage the ascension. It is beyond my d&d and runequest like mind. I can’t even do are magica, but at least that I can mine for ideas.
 


Ace

Adventurer
Tekumel, aka Empire of the Petal Throne

I scored a big box with basically everything made in it. It was really cheap. That wasn't the issue, I had a similar find with a Traveller box and no issues.

Problem was the setting is so alien. Low metal clan based Islamic-Aztec derived societies with science fantasy elements and magic are just too weird for me. The poor production quality and lack of organization and consistency didn't help either. So eventually instead of converting to GURPS and giving it a go I just sold it all.
 
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Aldarc

Legend
Tekumel, aka Empire of the Petal Throne

I scored a big box with basically everything made in it really cheap. That wasn't the issue, I had a similar find with Traveller box no issues.

Problem was the setting is so alien. Low metal clan based Islamic-Aztec derived societies with science fantasy elements and magic are just too weird for me. The poor production quality and lack of organization and consistency didn't help either. So eventually instead of converting to GURPS and giving it a go I just sold it all.
I think that one of the more difficult things about Tekumel, IMHO, is not so much the alien science fantasy aspects of the setting, but, rather, understanding the cultures of the game from a more day-to-day sort of perspective, such as its values and how family-clan kinship relations work.
 

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